How to Write a Resume
An effective resume is more than a list of your skills and experience. It serves as your professional introduction and a way for you to market and differentiate yourself.
It is often the only information a potential employer will have when deciding whether or not to invite you for an interview. Moreover, most employers receive hundreds of resumes for any given opportunity and have very little time to evaluate each one. Your resume must therefore clearly convey your skills, strengths, relevant experience, and do so in an efficient and visually appealing manner.
The following guide will walk you through creation of a resume that will best represent you to the organizations, programs and opportunities you hope to pursue.
Step 1: Choose a Format
Select a simple and appealing format for your resume. If you are just beginning your career or working in a traditional industry, choose something simple. Avoid borders, colors, images or graphics, as these tend to be difficult for automated Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) to read. Our basic formatting suggestions are below.
- Center name at top of page and make it two font sizes larger than the rest of the text
- Use a professional-sounding e-mail address that you check often; remove the hyperlink
- Include a physical address. If you prefer, you can list just city, state and ZIP code with no street address. You may include your current and permanent addresses, or just one.
- Optional: Include your LinkedIn profile URL
- Font: Arial, Calibri, Tahoma, Times New Roman (same font throughout)
- Font size: 10-11 point
- Margins: .5 to 1 inch, all sides
- Page Numbers: Include if the document goes beyond one page (start numbering on page 2)
- Use consistent formatting for dates throughout (e.g., 2/18, Feb. 2018, February 2018)
- Consider aligning all dates on the right side of your document
- Use bullet points to give relevant details and explanation of your experiences
- Bullet point style and formatting should match throughout
- Bullet points in a resume typically do not use a period because they are usually not complete sentences
- Within each section, list information in reverse chronological order (most recent first)
- Consider using bold and all caps for HEADINGS in the body of your resume
- Consider using bold for Names of Degrees and Position Titles
- Consider using italics for Name of Organization, City, and State
Looking for visual examples? Check out these templates for reference:
Step 2: Collect and Fill in Information
Make a list of all your prior experience including but not limited to education, internships, co-ops, full-time work, part-time work, volunteering, service-learning, awards and scholarships, achievements, study abroad, training programs, student organizations, leadership roles, lab and computer skills, languages, and certifications. Use exact names for degrees, programs, organizations, and titles; you may have to look some of them up.
Then, use this information to populate the resume sections outlined below. Among the optional sections, choose those that help convey your unique strengths and skills. Remember that many sections are flexible can be combined to tell your unique story. There is no one “correct” way to compose a resume since it is just as unique as you are!
If you choose to use a Summary, it should be specific to the industry and position. A vague Summary can do more harm than good.
- Should be at the top of your resume if you are a recent graduate
- Degree (Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Science, etc.) and month/year of graduation or expected graduation
- Major(s), minor(s), and any concentration(s) within your major(s) or minor(s) if applicable
- University name, city, and state
- (Optional) A list of relevant courses specifically related to the position
- (Optional) Awards and/or honors that you earned for academics, athletics, or in a work environment (this may be included under Education or listed in a separate section at the end, according to your preference)
- (Optional) Other universities, if applicable, should be formatted the same as current university
- (Optional) For first- and second-year students, including high school is acceptable. Format the name consistently with the current university.
- Always include job title, dates of employment, name of organization, and location
- Address what you learned and the skills you developed in addition to the tasks or jobs you performed, using strong bullet points
- “Experience” can include clubs or project work in addition to jobs or employment
- If you have a significant amount of experience, you can consider subdividing your experience section. For example, “Relevant Experience,” “Other Experience, “Research Experience,” etc.
Leadership, Activities and Service (optional)
- Your resume may contain one or all of these sections
- You may combine some, such as “Activities and Service”
- Choose quality over quantity. Only include experiences where you’ve developed skills that are relevant to the position you’re applying for.
- This section typically includes computer skills, language skills, and science/laboratory skills, if applicable.
- It’s better to incorporate soft skills or transferable skills into the Experience section, where you should demonstrate how you used and developed those skills. This is more effective than simply listing them under Skills.
Step 3: Carefully Review Your Resume
Since resumes involve a lot of detail and careful formatting, it is easy to make mistakes. The last stage of crafting your resume should be a meticulous review of your formatting and content and a careful search for typographical errors. If possible, have a friend, family member, or career coach conduct a final check.
- Is first and last name at the top of the page and in bold?
- Are address, phone number, and email easy to read?
- Does Education follow directly after the contact information?
- Is formatting (e.g. bold, font, bullet sizes, heading styles) consistent throughout?
- Are the headings and statements evenly spaced?
- Are dates evenly aligned along the right margin of the page?
- Are verb tenses present tense for current experiences and past for previous experiences?
- Are there one to four bullet points under each entry in the Experience section?
- If included, does the Objective statement clearly state the desired industry, position and two to three skill sets?
- Does the resume include the applicable headings, such as Education, Experience, Activities/Leadership/Service and Skills?
- Does the Education section state official degree and graduation date? Is the cumulative GPA included if higher than 3.0? Is the GPA accurate and not rounded up?
- Do the bulleted descriptions demonstrate major accomplishments rather than routine tasks/duties? Are they quantified whenever possible?
- Do the bulleted descriptions start with action verbs and demonstrate the use of key skills?
- Is the resume free of personal pronouns (e.g. no references to “I,” “we,” “me,” “us,” or “my”)?
- Is the resume completely free from errors in spelling, punctuation, abbreviations and grammar?